Tyler Davis understands the scrutiny.
In some measure, he embraces it because he knows that’s how it is when you follow a highly successful coach at one of the top high school boys basketball programs in the state.
Davis, in his first season as the head coach at Mountain Brook, said he is ready for the challenge of leading the Spartans’ program. He takes over for Bucky McMillan, who left Mountain Brook at the end of last season to become the head coach at Samford.
In 12 seasons at Mountain Brook, McMillan posted a 333-74 record, averaging nearly 28 wins per season, guided the Spartans to the state finals in the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s highest classification seven times and won state championships in 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Last season, he led Mountain Brook to a 32-3 record and a Class 7A runner-up finish.
Davis had a front row seat for “Buckyball,” coaching the Spartans’ junior varsity and serving as a varsity assistant the past 11 years. So, when he was handed the reins as McMillan’s replacement during the summer, he knew exactly what he was getting into.
“I know people will be looking to see if our style is different and to see the differences between me and him,” Davis said. “We’re still going to play with high intensity the way we did before. We might have some different sets, but we definitely will keep the three pillars of the program: unselfishness, fearlessness and hard work.”
If there’s one thing Davis knows, it’s basketball. He grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, where folks in the Hoosier State are as passionate about basketball as folks in Alabama are about football.
Davis played at Concord High School in Elkhart, earning a scholarship to Samford. After his playing days at Samford were over and he’d finished his education, Davis began his coaching career in 1999 at Vestavia Hills High School, where he led the junior varsity and assisted with the varsity program for nine years. He came to Mountain Brook in 2008 and coached the junior high ninth grade team for one year before joining McMillan’s staff.
He probably could have joined McMillan in his move to Samford, but he preferred taking over the Mountain Brook program instead.
“I love being a high school coach,” Davis said. “I am blessed with some amazing talent here and guys who love playing basketball.”
Even though he’s under careful observation this season, Davis said the ones to watch are his players.
“This is not about Tyler Davis, but about the guys who are continuing the legacy and the tradition of Mountain Brook basketball,” he said. “We have a whole new starting lineup and a lot of guys who have not played a lot of minutes.”
Although Mountain Brook, which has dropped down to Class 6A, has six returning lettermen from last season’s team that narrowly lost to Lee-Montgomery 40-38 in the Class 7A championship game, none were starters.
When the Spartans opened the season on Nov. 12, they started senior guards Bo Barber and Colby Blackwell, 6-foot-5 sophomore center Julius Clark and senior forwards Mac Swoger and Rayven Turner. Swoger and Blackwell are the only returning players who saw action in the championship game.
The 6-foot-6 Turner was ineligible last season after transferring from Jefferson High in Portland, Oregon. Barber transferred to Mountain Brook from Homewood this year.
“They will be two of our most dynamic players and fun to watch,” Davis said.
Another key player will be senior guard Paulson Wright, who will join the team when the Mountain Brook football season ends. He is one of the football team’s top receivers.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Davis said. “He’s a combo guard who can handle it and he’s a good shooter.”
Davis’ son Ty Davis, a 6-foot-2 freshman, also figures to see plenty of court time.
The Spartans will be competing in Class 6A, Area 9, with Briarwood Christian, Chelsea and Homewood.
“Moving to 6A doesn’t change our mindset one way or another,” Davis said. “There are a lot of really good teams in 6A, so we have a lot of work to do to be successful.
“The main thing is to make the most of their opportunity to play since, as we have seen with the pandemic, every day could be their last game or practice.”
The Spartans split their first four games of the season, beating Thompson 46-16 and Sipsey Valley 61-56 while losing in double-overtime at Spain Park 67-63 and at Shades Valley 72-54.
One thing that won’t change under Davis is the expectations.
“To be honest, the expectations are similar to Bucky’s,” Davis said. “We never said our No. 1 goal was to win a state championship. We want to get 1 percent better every day and by the end of the season to maximize our potential.”